How much time do you waste at work? It might be more than you think. No, I’m not referring to blatant wastes of time like talking on the phone all day, surfing the web, or even sleeping. I’m referring to work-related practices that keep IT professionals busy, yet ultimately unproductive.
Here’s the tricky part: They aren’t easy to identify. They look like work, they feel like work, but they keep your IT department from accomplishing important tasks.
So, how can you avoid these time-wasting practices and focus your efforts on essential tasks? The first step: Identify the culprits. To help you out, I’ve compiled a list of 5 of the most common, yet unnecessary IT practices that waste your time. If you can think of any others, feel free to share in the comments.
1. Creating reports for end users
If you spend any time creating and running reports for end users, let me ask you a question: Why aren’t your end users creating their own reports? While reporting is essential, it’s just not a job for the IT department. Give end users the tools necessary to create their own reports, and instead focus on more mission-critical tasks.
“As an IT professional, I always have more things to do than I have time to do them — I know I’m not alone either!” Says Rick Hurckes, Lead Consultant at mrc. “When I discuss workload with my peers, I am always surprised when they tell me how much time they use fulfilling their end users requests for reporting. For quite a while now I’ve given my own end users the ability to make their own reports, freeing up my time to handle more critical issues.”
2. Fixing the same problems (over and over)
Many times, a lack of communication results in hours of wasted time. It usually goes something like this: One IT employee discovers and fixes an application or hardware problem, but fails to document the problem and solution. As a result, other employees must re-discover the solution every time the problem arises. Imagine how much time you could save if employees simply documented changes/fixes.
“This is the #1 problem for all IT groups,” says RJ Martino, President and Founder of iProv, LLC. “When you fix a problem, document EXACTLY how it was fixed. Often, you are fixing the same problem over and over. If you don’t document how the problem was fixed, you have to relearn the problem and re-learn the solution.”
3. Repeating manual tasks
If you find yourself performing the same task on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, ask yourself this question: “Can this be automated?” Chances are, there’s a way to automate that manual task…and save hours of time in the process.
“A big time waster is repeating manual tasks that could and should be automated,” says Ski Kacoroski, Director of the League of Professional System Administrators (LOPSA). “IT pros need to continually evaluate the repetitive tasks they are doing such as checking logs, checking system emails, checking backups, spinning up servers and see what they can do to automate these tasks.”
4. Manually controlling user access
While simple in small companies, controlling user access in larger companies is a challenging task. If left to the IT department, user access control might very well consume much of their time. Instead, IT departments must find a way to move user control to the individual business units.
“IT departments spend a considerable amount of time manually granting or removing access for employees, contractors, and partners,” says Jason Garbis, VP at Aveksa. “Much of this activity is driven by normal lifecycle events, such as people joining or leaving the company, or partner onboarding and offboarding. This work can and should be automated by an Identity and Access Management System, freeing up IT people for higher-value tasks.”
5. Storing data outside of a database
A surprising amount of businesses still store critical business data outside of their database, most commonly in programs such as Excel. Not only is this a risky move, it’s also a giant waste of time.
How so? Well, suppose you needed to create a report using that data. First, you must determine every place the necessary data resides. Then you must combine the data in a single file for reporting purposes. You’re looking at hours of work. Now imagine how much simpler that process becomes if you store that data in a database and run reports using a web reporting tool. The whole process should only require a few minutes.
Technology is rapidly becoming more and more important to the business world, which means IT departments now have an incredible opportunity to impact the business more than ever before. However, that’s near impossible if the IT department wastes their time on unnecessary practices, like those listed above. If IT departments truly want to improve the business, they must focus their time and energy on essential, mission-critical tasks.